Today, TechFreedom officially launched DontBreakThe.Net, a grassroots petition campaign urging the FCC not to impose 1930s-style utility regulation on the Internet. Subjecting broadband to Title II of the 1996 Telecom Act would trigger endless litigation, cripple investment, slow broadband deployment and upgrades, and thus harm underserved communities. The website directs comments to the FCC and debunks several myths about the benefits of a government takeover of the Internet.
“This debate is no longer about net neutrality,” said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom. “A radical fringe has hijacked the conversation in an attempt to undo two decades of bipartisan consensus against heavy-handed government control of the Internet. Al Gore may not have exactly ‘invented the Internet,’ but President Clinton’s FCC chairman Bill Kennard deserves much credit for choosing not to embroil the Internet in what he called the ‘morass’ of Title II. Kennard’s approach of ‘vigilant restraint’ unleashed over $1 trillion in private investment, which built the broadband networks everyone takes for granted today. Abandoning that approach would truly break the Internet.”
“Net Neutrality supporters such as Google, Facebook, and the NAACP haven’t jumped on the Title II bandwagon because they understand that Title II threaten would threaten the entire Internet,” explained Szoka. “Title II proponents claim the FCC can simply ‘reclassify’ broadband, but in truth, there’s no such thing as reclassification, only re-interpretation of the key definitions of the 1996 Telecom Act. If the FCC re-opens that Pandora’s Box, the bright line Chairman Kennard drew between Title II and the Internet will disappear forever. Startups and edge/content providers will inevitably be caught in the fray. And besides, the FCC has a long history of overstepping its bounds.”
“Invoking Title II would trigger years of litigation,” continued Szoka. “It’s not clear the FCC could ultimately ‘reclassify’ broadband at all, and even less clear the FCC could, or actually would, follow through on talk of paring back Title II’s most burdensome rules, like retail price controls. Even if ‘reclassification’ stood up in court, the FCC still couldn’t do what net neutrality hardliners want: banning prioritization. The FCC would succeed only in creating a dark cloud of legal uncertainty. That would slow broadband upgrades and discourage new entrants, such as Google Fiber, from entering the market at all.”
“The best policy would be to maintain the ‘Hands off the Net’ approach that has otherwise prevailed for 20 years,” concluded Szoka. “Innovation could thrive, and regulators could still keep a watchful eye, intervening only where there is clear evidence of actual harm, not just abstract fears. As former FCC Chairman Bill Kennard put it, ‘I don’t want to dump the whole morass of Title II regulation on the cable pipe.’ If we want to maintain a free and open Internet, and encourage broadband competition, the FCC would do well to heed his advice.”
Visit DontBreakThe.Net to read about or join the campaign.
- TechFreedom and ICLE’s comments to the FCC on Net Neutrality
- “Understanding Net(flix) Neutrality,” an op-ed by Geoffrey Manne in the Detroit News on Netflix’s strategy to confuse interconnection costs with neutrality issues
- “The Feds Lost on Net Neutrality, But Won Control of the Internet,” an op-ed by Berin Szoka and Geoffrey Manne in Wired.com
- “That startup investors’ letter on net neutrality is a revealing look at what the debate is really about,” a post by Geoffrey Manne in Truth on the Market
- “Bipartisan Consensus: Rewrite of ‘96 Telecom Act is Long Overdue,” a post on TF’s blog highlighting the key points from TechFreedom and ICLE’s joint comments on updating the Communications Act